Updated Feb 3, 2023
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High-efficiency solar cells can help you save money on your electric bills and go green in your own home while also increasing the value of your property. As you shop for solar panels, you might notice the term “solar panel efficiency” noted on multiple models. The efficiency rating of a solar panel tells you what percentage of the sunlight that hits the panel can be turned into usable electricity for your home. For example, if you have a solar panel with an efficiency rating of 15, it means that 15% of the sunlight that hits the cells is converted into viable electricity for your home.
The best solar panels have higher efficiency ratings, allowing you to harness more of the sun’s energy for your home. After reviewing hundreds of solar panel manufacturers, we’ve narrowed down our list to the five most efficient solar panels. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the many types of solar panels and which give the best power output.
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25-year limited warranty
$3.48 per watt
Designed with homeowners in mind, the SunPower M-Series is one of the first series of solar energy companies designed and warrantied under a single point of contact. Despite being one of the most efficient solar panels available to everyday consumers, the SunPower M-Series also has a sleek, aesthetically pleasing design that will effortlessly fit with any home décor scheme. This low-profile design can make the M-Series the ideal choice for homeowners living in communities that control the design and look of rooftops.
The M-Series features cutting-edge solar cell technology, including six individual cells incorporated into each panel and a factory-integrated microinverter. With a power output of 440 watts, the M-Series provides a high-quality stream of power to your home. Its efficiency rating of 22.8% is also exceptionally high, which means that energy production can still continue even in low light or cloud cover. However, the M-Series presents a higher upfront cost than many other solar cell options at about $3.50 per watt.
25-year limited warranty
$3.30 per watt
While the A-Series doesn’t boast as high an efficiency rating as its M-Series counterpart, it does offer a more affordable price point for homeowners looking to invest in a solar panel system for the first time. This lower introductory price point before incentives has made the A-Series SunPower’s most popular solar panel system.
The A-Series is outfitted with extra-large Maxeon Gen 5 solar cells, which are 65% larger than previous solar modules from SunPower. Despite this, the A-Series is also 5% smaller in size than models with similar overall efficiency. This high energy efficiency packed into a compact cell means that the A-Series can be a strong choice for homeowners with a limited amount of usable roof space.
25-year panel warranty
$3.10 per watt
The REC Alpha Pure-R system integrates heterojunction (HJT) cell technology not found with other providers. This technology increases the temperature coefficient of the system, which means that it can handle higher temperatures and convert a higher percentage of sunlight to energy as the temperature rises. These cells deliver a return on your investment that’s up to 16% higher than comparable solar cells and can be a particularly great choice if you live in an area known for scorching temperatures.
The Alpha Pure-R system also uses multi-junction wiring to improve the flow of electricity throughout the cell. This results in more usable power for your home, which is one of the reasons why these cells have such great efficiency.
The Pure-R panel system in particular can be a strong choice for discerning homeowners looking to maintain their home’s curb appeal — its thin black wires and solder-free installation limit impact on your exterior design. This environmentally-friendly installation process and design is also a favorite of condo owners thanks to its low level of impact on roofing tiles.
25-year panel warranty
$2.86 per watt
The Panasonic EverVolt solar panel system was designed with the word “efficiency” in mind. Its sleek panel design optimizes its usable panel space using a gapless design, which provides you with more energy for your home and a higher efficiency rating with less space. This can be ideal for anyone who owns or leases a multi-family apartment building or who otherwise has less space to install their solar panels on.
In addition to looking great, EverVolt panels are also designed to be efficient over the long term with lower degradation rates. Under standard conditions, you can expect an annual degradation rate of 0.25% efficiency, which is competitive with similar panels. If you run into any issues with your solar panel operation or installation, you also have Panasonic’s robust customer service infrastructure behind you, which can be encouraging for first-time buyers.
$2.45 per watt
If you live in North America, Silfab’s solar panels are designed with your climate specifically in mind. They’re one of the only solar panels on the market manufactured exclusively within the United States, which means that they’re also built to withstand the U.S.’s wide range of temperature fluctuations. If you live in an area that’s known for weather extremes (like the south of Florida or the California coastline) you might get more value from the Silfab Elite’s native, intuitive design.
Silfab’s solar panels also include one of the most generous warranties in the industry. Your solar system is insured on its workmanship for 25 years and its performance for 30 years. This is five years longer than most other solar panel manufacturers.
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Are higher-efficiency solar panels worth the extra investment? As you shop, you’ll notice that higher efficiency panels tend to come with higher price tags. While you can use a lower-efficiency solar panel system to generate clean energy for your home, higher-efficiency models come with the following major benefits.
The average solar panel system pays for itself in six to ten years. However, when you have higher cell efficiency, your solar panel system might pay for itself in a shorter period of time. This is because higher cell efficiency means that your solar system can generate a higher amount of electricity from the same amount of sunlight when compared to less efficient models. While there might be more of an upfront cost associated with solar panel installation, advancements in efficiency make your solar energy system a better long-term investment.
In most parts of the United States, full, cloudless sunlight isn’t guaranteed on a daily basis. Solar panels with a higher percent efficiency can produce more electricity in a wider range of real-world conditions when compared to lower efficiency cells. If you live in an area that gets more indirect sunlight, you might want to consider higher efficiency monocrystalline photovoltaic cells over polycrystalline cells, which have lower efficiency. These cells will help you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to generating electricity.
More efficient solar panels take up less space than lower efficiency models. If you have a limited amount of rooftop to install your panels, you’ll want to focus on finding the most efficient system possible. More efficient models are also often preferred for aesthetic reasons, which can be beneficial if you’re installing a solar panel system to increase the value of your home before a sale.
There are many different types of solar panel systems you can use to improve the efficiency of your residential space. The following are a few essential characteristics you should consider when shopping for the best solar panel system.
You might also see a new type of solar power cell, thin-film, on the market today. Thin-film panels are the least efficient type of solar battery cell, and they also have noticeably less durability than both types of cells previously mentioned. While these cells are lower in price, they provide less value to your home.
When it comes to solar panel efficiency, it’s impossible to beat SunPower. Multiple panels from the company see efficiency ratings well above the average of 15% to 20%. However, SunPower’s most popular series also come with higher upfront pricing as well as more expensive ongoing operating costs. If you’re looking for a more affordable unit that still offers higher-than-average efficiency, consider the REC Alpha Pure-R or the Panasonic EverVolt.
The most efficient solar panels available on the market are models from SunPower. SunPower’s solar panels see more than 20% efficiency, meaning that they are able to use more than 20% of the sunlight that hits the panel.
One day, solar panels may be able to reach 50% efficiency. However, today’s solar panels are not capable of this level of efficiency, no matter what material they’re made of. 15% to 20% efficiency is considered average with most solar panels on the market today.
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At House Method, transparency and trust are our most important values for the reader. That’s why we took the time to create an objective rating system and score each solar energy company/service according to our methodology.
Our research team dug deep into the fine print of contracts, combed through more than one hundred customer reviews, and thoroughly investigated all of each solar energy company’s services, costs, and products. We’ve done the homework for you by researching nearly all of the solar energy companies on the market so you can have the information you need to make the best choice for your home.
We developed a formula to objectively determine the best solar energy companies and give each a score out of 100 based on the following criteria:
Plan Options (30): Do they provide a variety of plan options? We looked at the number of plans each solar energy company offered and the flexibility of adjusting the plan.
Services offered (20): How many services are offered in each plan? We looked at whether the company manufactures its own solar panels, whether it contracts out installation, and what additional products each company offers.
Trust (10): What do customers say after their solar panels are installed? Does this company offer a guarantee? We considered how satisfied customers are post-service if the company does what it says it will, BBB accreditation, and service guarantees.
Prices (10): How reasonable are the costs of the plan or service in comparison to the industry average? We compared the costs of each company to competitors that offer the same solar energy services.
Unique perks (10): Does the company offer discounts or special services such as financial incentives, rebates, or a useful mobile app? We looked for extras each company offers that set them apart from the competition.
Customer Service (10): How is the customer experience when contacting the company? We considered the speed of response, weekend/holiday availability, and ease of communication through phone calls, email, and online chat functions.
Nationwide availability (10): How many states does the company offer its services? Companies that operate nationally and in all zip codes are favored over those with limited availability.
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